My Dad Makes A Walking Stick

Sometimes he will just stare 
into layered forest, like a 

surfer watching waves. Look 
closely, poison ivy, ferns, dogwood 

flowers. Walk with him, see 
downed limbs, branches sprouting 

green, but soon to die. Notice 
these things, the fallen are

hiking companions. Fractured 
Virginia wilderness, hickory, oak, 

walnut, redbud, wood that he studies 
to know. Even before death some are 

stronger than others. Always has 
a serrated folding saw, he holds it 

steady, cuts five or six feet, bits of 
tree dust drift with dragonflies. He

carries these pieces like shouldered 
fishing rods. In the basement, whittling 

knife separates outer bark from cambium, 
sanded before brushed with lacquer to 

dry, then shine, touch the earth again, 
reflect the gleaming sun.

Seeing the Mountain Lion

please let me 
tell the truth
that I saw 
it, the mountain
lion, lithe, yes
springy, legs, twitching
tail, like at 
the zoo but
free on golden
hillside, in California

I had just
eaten a banana
morning at camp
counselor for kids 
with HIV, beautiful

sun peeking through
fog and me
and the young
lion, that I’d
wanted to see
for hundreds of 
miles hiking, camping
hours of night
and nothing, but
longing for wild
but nothing, maybe
a rattlesnake or
coyote, but then

the moment passed
and it moved
down the hill
toward the road

the next day
saw it dead
on the asphalt

I wanted to
take some of
its teeth, save
something, after so
much time waiting
but I let
it rest, sad
it was gone